Fitbit Joining The COVID-19 Fight With ‘Cheaper’ New Ventilator

Last week, Fitbit announced what they’re calling the Fitbit Flow, a low-cost emergency ventilator that will be available in the United States and around the world for COVID-19 patients when there are shortages of traditional ventilators.

Current estimates show that the number of ventilators in the United States range from 60,000 to 160,000, far below the 2M confirmed cases.

Seeing an opportunity to help respond to the urgent need both now and into the future, Fitbit Flow has quickly been granted Emergency Use Authorisation by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use on people in need.

Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park says that the experience the company has with sensor development and a global supply chain made the task of producing a fit for purpose, cheaply priced ventilator a wise decision.

“We saw an opportunity to rally our expertise in advanced sensor development, manufacturing, and our global supply chain to address the critical and ongoing need for ventilators and help make a difference in the global fight against this virus”, Park said.

Specifically designed to be easy to use, it’s also hoped that the Fitbit Flow will help reduce the strain on highly specialized who are typically required to operate a commercial ventilator.

Fitbit Flow builds on standard resuscitator bags, like those used by paramedics, with sophisticated instruments, sensors, and alarms that work together to support automated compressions and patient monitoring.

During development and testing, Fitbit consulted with Oregon Health & Science University emergency medicine clinicians caring for COVID-19 patients at OHSU Hospital and worked with several other working groups on the design to meet the needs of practitioners.

Our COVID-19 Lockdown Lessons Were A Good Thing

Almost a week has passed since New Zealand lifted itself out of COVID-19 alert level 4, bringing with it a slight reprieve from the most restrictive times our nation has ever seen.

Never before, and maybe never again, will an entire population come to a standstill in the way it did throughout the month of April. Never again will the majority of us with the smarts required have the opportunity, perhaps even time, to think about how we really feel about the crazy thing we call our lives.

So what does it all mean for the future? Whilst times are still uncertain, if the state of national lockdown taught us New Zealanders anything, it should be just how lucky we’ve always been. 

Access to the environment, to our friends, to our work. Most of it wasn’t given a second thought by most prior to all this. Those same old roads, footpaths, lakes and parks, places of work, coffee shops and the people outside of our little circle that we spend the majority of the time trying to please or convince.

Oh, and those glorious takeaways! We sure as hell missed those!

We missed it all during the course of the national lockdown. It tested our mental health, our relationships, perhaps even our very lifestyles. And honestly, it’s about damn time.

The ones that were quick to try and break the rules were class examples of selfish, immature and ignorant. The ones that complained to all that would listen on social media about being stuck at home with nothing to do suddenly realised how meaninglessly frantic their typical day-to-day lives were prior to lockdown, you know the lives where social commitments and keeping everyone in your outer circle matters most? Yeah, those ones. 

It all kind of makes me feel happy to be a socially challenges introvert with a very small circle of friends. I didn’t have to miss a whole lot during the lockdown, I had what I needed right there with me (partner, cats, food etc).  

Thankfully, the smarts of most shone bright and we managed to do enough to have the restrictions eased somewhat, allowing us to now enjoy some of those basic pleasures like getting a coffee or going out for a quick fish. 

The easing of lockdown also allowed some of us to see close family for the first time in over a month, something I personally am very thankful for. 

The tone of this blog may bring out a rolling of the eyes depending on your viewpoint on the world around you. But I do implore you, if you couldn’t use this time to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself some important questions, you’re probably missing the bigger point here. 

The point is, the majority of you reading this are privileged, you really are.

I know, it sucks to have that pointed out, but I’m not talking about privilege in the terms of materials. I’m talking about privilege in terms of the options you have in the world around you, many of those options were taken away during the lockdown and it forces you to deal with, and make the best of, the things you actually had on hand and not the things you could get. 

Do you feel me? I guess in a roundabout way, what I’m really trying to say here is use the experience of COVID to appreciate the little things in life a little more. If you don’t appreciate those you shared your bubble with, ask yourself why.

COVID should have taught us all a lot of things in all honesty. If it didn’t teach you anything, you’re proving my point.

But don’t worry, there is still time.

Quality Sports Journalism In NZ Cannot Be Replaced Swiftly

New Zealand’s media industry is reeling following a dark week which saw two of its biggest institutions shut down.

Let’s take a look at the week that was.

First, it was Radio Sport who stopped broadcasting on Monday after its owner NZME switched the frequency of New Zealand’s only sports-dedicated sports radio station over to Newstalk ZB. 

Hundreds of jobs were lost, and not just the voices you hear on the airwaves. You’re also talking about the producers, the reporters in the field and all the researchers. 

Furthermore, it all happened incredibly quickly, almost faster than the speed in which news breaks on a day to day basis. 

Radio Sport housed New Zealand’s best minds in the sports media business and their departure simply cannot be filled in terms of talent. When, or even if, Radio Sport were to return in some fashion, many of those talents won’t be coming back either. 

Some say that the decision had been a long time coming due to the network simply not making enough money for NZME to remain commercially viable, but that’s not a black mark against the journalists rather the model in which they were working. 

The media business relies on advertising to pay its workers and advertising has all but dried up since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in New Zealand, just take a look at newspapers recently or tune into the television, the same goes for radio. 

Then on Thursday, the shock of all shocks, Bauer Media announced its closure in New Zealand, bringing with it the death nail to some of the most beloved magazines that have served readers for multiple generations. 

Shortly after, speculation was similar to the Radio Sport closure, that it wasn’t so much because of COVID-19 alone, but the implications of not being able to print magazines during the lockdown served as the perfect excuse to make a decision that had long been in the pipeline. 

Today, the Government has been criticised by many in the media for not helping out Bauer Media with any financial assistance, but the Prime Minister herself says that the company refused to take wage subsidy allowances. 

Whatever the real truth, the impact on workers at Bauer Media makes the losses Radio Sport sustained look tiny. Journalists, columnists and editors for magazines like The Listener, the Woman’s Day/Weekly, and Metro Magazine (just to name a few) are well into triple figures when you put the entire New Zealand branch of Bauer together. 

So, with all this news and the hundreds of jobs lost to the business, where to from here to the New Zealand media? 

Filling The Void, But At What Credible Value? 

We’ve already seen many a social media pundit quickly try to turn the closure of media outlets into an opportunity to fill the void, so the answer about where to from here can be found in that, social media will give the opportunities for everyone to keep sports media going in different forms. 

But despite that, quality journalism for sports and magazine is in grave peril right now. 

COVID-19 and its impact on New Zealand will likely to be the single story for our media moving forward. For the established sports media, it’s a gigantic game of wait and see for the next while. 

Until the sporting landscape gets somewhere close to being back to normal then there really isn’t a sustainable market for it, because the news will quickly dry up and this will expose the flaws of opportunistic tendencies by those who think they can replace and do better. 

If anything, what COVID-19 should teach us is how important professional competitions really are to the business of sports journalism. 

If you break it all down, the news isn’t just what happens on game day and the fallout from it, the news is really about the stories within the sport, player transfers and injuries, what franchises are doing or not doing, etc etc. 

Don’t discount the importance of contacts that some of the sports journalists keep either. 

Social media pundits can and will successfully be able to keep the sports conversation going within their respective bubbles but without legitimate access to sources and the knowledge of journalistic practices, the value of their respective mediums will be low. 

If six years of doing this sports journalism thing (semi-professionally before transitioning into the mainstream) has taught me anything it’s that the story always matters, not the chatter. 

You don’t have a story without the sport and the access to it, what you have is chatter. 

That’s not journalism, it doesn’t require that hard work required to verify fact from opinion, the ability to be able to meet deadline multiple times per day, or to go back and re-write or re-produce content to meet the quality required for mainstream publication. 

The biggest test that’s about to face the business on these shores is ensuring that when sports media does return to what it was before COVID-19, it maintains the talents it had to ensure the quality and substance remains. 

Freelancers Like Us Are Going To Be OK During COVID-19

Last week, on Twitter, I posted that I’d block anyone who played the ‘feel sorry for me’ or ‘please donate to my Patreon because I’m now out of work’ game.

The bottom line is this: we are all in a s**t situation thanks to COVID-19, and freelancers like ourselves have taken a big hit financially. Now is the time to have a bit of perspective, as hard as it might be.

Personally, if I am to be self-indulgent for a moment, I am now all but redundant until further notice. I am not the only one.

It would be easy for me, like many others who have been in the same position recently, to go on an all-out content push in the hopes that it would fill the void of what I may have had before.

Perhaps I am even guilty of this at times, but IMO there is a lot of gross and shameless self-promotion on social media these days.

When I transitioned from social media journo to regular mainstream journo, I noticed how loud the Twitter-sphere really was. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it’s just loud, getting louder by the day in fact.

There are some who are really good at promoting themselves and have some genuinely good content worth following them for, but there are others who

So as the lockdown begins and we ponder the next month (at least) of being confined largely to our homes, what’s the best way to deal with this? There’s certainly been no shortage of guides, how-to blogs and inspiring stories of how people are making the most of the situation floating around the internet in the past couple of weeks.

The first way to make the best of self-isolation is to understand that you’ll likely go through different stages. You’ll tell yourself you’ve got a plan, but the key moving forward is to not overdo anything. That includes making content for the sake of making content because you feel like your platform can’t afford to take a break.

For some, it may also be a good opportunity to go back to some of the platforms we’ve let get dusty, or potentially some of us can put ourselves out there and create completely new ones.

Personally, my first plan was to get back into streaming on Twitch, record a ton of extra podcasts and even begin writing a book.

But in reality, I’ve really only done a couple of streams and podcasts, spending the rest of my time keeping a close eye on the news, watching Netflix and playing PlayStation.

It’s going to take time to adjust to our new lives, and you will likely stumble off the mark. I know that I certainly have.

Today, by way of this blog, is the first time I’ve managed to get some concentrated writing done, and I did it with no idea of what I was going to type on the blank word document other than the ideology of getting something published online.

That’s probably why the general direction of this piece is all over the shop.

PlayStation got in contact this morning, the new Predator: Hunting Grounds trial weekend is open for gaming media and fans alike from today, so I will have a go at that and write up a preview blog for the game on Monday after I’ve had some hands-on time.

Us rugby journos had a phone conference with the Chiefs CEO and media manager earlier and I am glad to report that there will be some opportunities to talk to players about their respective self-isolation experiences.

I also redesigned the blog, so if you are reading this, be sure to let me know how it looks!

Stay safe, don’t push yourself too hard. Keep what’s most important nestled in the forefront of your mind, you are (hopefully) healthy and safe, surely this is what really matters in the current climate.

COVID-19 Observer: Tuesday 17th March

Coronavirus is really kicking our arse right now. The borders are all but shut down, the economy is in the tank, even rugby and all the other major sports have been canned. 

What’s a sports journalist to do in these difficult times? My original goal was to sit down and write something to make you feel better, but honestly, right now that’s hard.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve said or heard the word ‘unprecedented’ in the last couple of days, but these are truly unprecedented times for us all. 

In response, our Government will be injecting $12.1billion into the rescue effort, but will it be enough? Probably not, I fear big time for the future of smaller businesses in New Zealand and the smaller businesses all around the world. 

It feels, in some strange way, like COVID-19 has been the wake-up call the world has been waiting for. Do you feel the same? How are you going to adjust to self-isolating in the coming days, weeks, maybe even months? 

If you aren’t in this position, count yourself lucky, but be careful out there. Now is not the time for selfishness, we are all going through a difficult time.

All of us. As one.